Five Ways Women’s Ministries Can Care for Victims of Domestic Violence

Most likely, around 25% of the women attending your church are victims of domestic abuse.[1] When you see that number, is your first thought disbelief? Mine certainly was, and I am what some would call an expert in this area. But in ministering to the women in my church, I have sadly witnessed its truth firsthand. We struggle to believe that domestic abuse is in our churches for three main reasons. First, abuse is a hidden reality. It happens behind closed doors. The sinful tactics used by an abusive husband are inconceivable, in part because abusers strive to keep their deeds hidden in darkness (John 3:20). Second, abused women often do not identify as victims; they feel responsible for their oppression. Most women come to me for counseling about something else, such as anxiety, depression, or guilt. Oppressors confuse their victims to control them; a common by-product of sin is “disorder” (James 3:16). Victims often do not possess the clarity required to conceptualize what they are enduring is abuse. Third, we struggle to identify abuse because the oppressor usually attends our church. We have talked and prayed with him. We think we know him. In reality, we only see how he presents his public face. At home, oppressors are very different people. Even though Scripture warns us about deceivers (2 Timothy 3:13), we struggle to identify them among the people we think we know. Although we often are not aware of abuse, the Lord sees victims and is active in their rescue (Luke 4:18–19). I also believe that God calls us to join him in their rescue. Below are five ways the women’s ministry in your church could help identify and care for the sufferers in your midst...

Five Ways Women’s Ministries Can Care for Victims of Domestic Violence2022-05-05T00:03:55+00:00

How the Church Can Encourage Front Line Workers

COVID-19 placed a drain on medical personnel we nurses didn’t see coming. We’ve managed infectious diseases before, handled cumbersome PPE, and even ventured into uncharted waters with a diagnosis we weren’t sure how to handle. But I must admit, the Monday morning when the COVID numbers at my hospital unit jumped into the double digits, and doubled again by the end of the week, pandemic seemed an appropriate word. I placed a call to my pregnant daughter, Anna, and told her that until I was no longer caring for these patients, it would be safest if I did not see them. My two-year-old granddaughter didn’t understand why she couldn’t go to Grandma’s. On my way into work one morning a woman stopped me. “Can you get a message to my husband? I can’t go in, can I?” The eighty-something woman gripped her walker and seemed frantic. I recorded her message on my cell phone and left her on a nearby bench. Outside her husband’s hospital room, I grabbed a gown, shoe coverings, hair net, mask and face shield, and gloves. I put my cell phone in a clear plastic bag and prayed it wouldn’t obscure the picture too much. Her husband listened to the message as tears streamed down his face. He mouthed a thank-you through his nonrebreather. I couldn’t do all the usual satisfying nurse things like hold his hand or give him a hug. Neither could I offer that to his wife. It felt so pathetic, holding up a cell phone in a plastic bag, hoping he could see her, hear her. Afterwards, I tramped back downstairs brushing past a coworker who asked if I was ok. I nodded a yes, but I meant no. Outside, that sweet wife was waiting. At least I could tell her he heard her voice and seemed to know it was her. I swallowed hard, wrote my cell number down on a piece of paper and handed it to her. “Anytime you need to get a message to your husband, you call me. Anytime, ma’am. I will meet you here.”

How the Church Can Encourage Front Line Workers2022-05-05T00:04:37+00:00

Three Ways to Love Other Churches

Several times each year, our church has its Sunday evening worship service with other area churches. Before the service, we greet old friends in the parking lot and squeeze together in the quickly-filling sanctuary. Meeting in a place that a recent study called “the most post-Christian city in America” our combined assembly is not particularly large, but it is always immensely encouraging. Week-by-week, vastly outnumbered by our avowedly-secular neighbors, our individual churches can sometimes seem like minor oddities. But, every few months, for two hours on a Sunday evening, these scattered congregations gather. We sing together, pray together, confess our faith together, receive the Word together, and fellowship together. Together, we affirm that, though each local church may appear weak and solitary, we have never been—and will never be!—alone. In the book of Acts, when Luke reports on the earliest spread of the gospel, he describes it as the growth of a single church: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31). Congregations assembled for worship in various locations in Judea and Galilee and Samaria. They were unique groups of specific people under the care of particular elders. But, seen together through the lens of Christ’s great redeeming work, they were “the church.” In our local congregations, we are not just a few or a few hundred; we are part of something much, much bigger. We are part of the church...

Three Ways to Love Other Churches2022-05-05T00:43:00+00:00

A Whole Lot of Mothering Going On

While this post is somewhat about motherhood, it’s more about mothering. And while I will be talking about my perspective as a mother, I hope there is something here that will encourage you— whether your mothering is in the biological realm, the spiritual realm, or both. To embrace our God-given design as lifegivers is a joyful expression of who we were created to be. I’m a mother of five and a grandmother of eight. I’m fortunate that my own mother was able to come stay with us when a new baby arrived. Having her there to help in all sorts of ways made those first crazy days survivable. As terrifying as it was to bring that new little person home from the hospital, it was nothing compared to watching Mom drive away and knowing I was now on my own. When my own daughter began having children, I couldn’t get that airplane ticket fast enough. Every passenger between Houston and Nashville knew that I was going to meet my newest grandbaby! From my experience of being both on the receiving and the giving end of this special kind of caretaking, I can’t help notice some similarities with our role as spiritual mothers as well. Eat, Eat! We all know the intensity of a newborn’s cry for food. Eating is serious business! But a new mama needs to eat as well. Remember that early fog? When you feel like you just ran a race and want nothing more than to sleep, unless that something more is food? Labor and delivery were only the beginning of this marathon! Having mom there to shop and cook and do the dishes and make all our favorite meals was more than just help: it was nourishment for our weary, hungry souls. The last thing on my mind when I was a gazillion-weeks pregnant was making things look pretty, yet here Mom was: putting the jam in a pretty dish, folding napkins, and making our time around the table a celebration. When my own house was full of little ones, my older children knew the best part of having a new baby was the meals from our church friends. Every night was like Christmas as these dear saints blessed us with dinner (usually with plenty of leftovers!). I will never forget the morning that Miss April brought over a platter of freshly fried chicken. I don’t remember why she was there at 10 AM, but I do remember that those drumsticks didn’t make it to dinnertime!  After spending a week with my daughter last month, I was reminded how much hungry kids can eat. What fun to bake and cook for a crowd again! If you are in a spiritual mothering relationship, you know that one of the best ways to care for your daughter is through the word of God. It is her food and she needs to eat. Sometimes we model that by showing her what a beautiful feast looks like: a specially prepared Bible study or devotion, a lesson from our own life that we can share. Sometimes we show up with that “emergency meal” and remind her that no Christian can survive on a starvation diet...

A Whole Lot of Mothering Going On2022-05-05T00:45:24+00:00

Called to One Another Care

I have the privilege of working with some of the godliest women in our congregation. The seasoned saints that sit in our church each Sunday are a treasure. Their collective wisdom, derived from walking closely with the Lord through unique experiences, provides such rich material from which to give care to hurting women. One reader of Help[H]er wrote, Shepherdesses must be very special people. I'm convinced that I would not be able to do such a demanding task…The women you described must be spiritual giants. I agree! Although the shepherdesses would probably cringe to hear that. So, it is my pleasure to encourage them to believe God has graciously equipped them with every good gift and they are competent for one another care (2 Tim. 3:17). And so are you...

Called to One Another Care2022-05-05T00:51:55+00:00

Called to Community

In my mother’s bedroom is an antique armoire. Its open doors reveal folded quilts, carefully stacked, and hinting at their kaleidoscope of pattern and color. As beautiful as they are sitting on the shelf, nothing compares to the glory that appears when each one is taken down and spread out on the bed, displaying the stitches and handiwork that went into creating them. I love hearing their stories: the feed sack cloth, the shirt scraps, this one that came from an Easter dress and that one made from a soft velvet. The women, over years and generations, gathered together to piece and sew and form these bits of fabric into something more wonderful in their combining than was possible in their separate existence.     When I think of my life in the community that is the body of Christ, I think of these quilts. God, the master creator and craftsman, has fashioned us— his covenant people— into a whole that is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Each of us brings our own beauty, our own personality, our own gifts, and yes— our own quirks, sins, and faults. Just as the quilt maker trims and shapes each piece for its intended use, so does God fit us for use in his kingdom.  As a member of this kingdom community called “the church,” I am called with a purpose, I am called to be present, and I am called to pray. Called with a Purpose Calling can be a scary concept to ponder and an even harder one to figure out. We like to make things complicated, as if God has some secret plan for our lives that we just need to decipher. Thankfully, God has made it abundantly clear in his word. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Love God. Love my neighbor. But where? And how? And what does this look like?...

Called to Community2022-05-05T00:59:46+00:00

A Prayer for the Church

What do your daily prayers look like? When I consider my own prayers, I often find myself praying through a list of things I need help with or concerns I have for loved ones and friends. More often than not, my prayers focus on the temporal rather than the eternal, the physical rather than the spiritual. While such prayers are not wrong—for Jesus instructed us to pray for our daily bread—they are missing something. They are near-sighted. Whenever I read Paul’s prayers in the Bible, I see what’s lacking in my own. Paul prays big prayers—prayers which stretch beyond the here and now and into eternity. The prayers he shares in his letters focus on the spiritual health of the church and the growth and spread of the gospel. Prayers such as this one to the church at Colossae: “we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:9-10). Jonathan Edwards once noted, “…if we look through the whole Bible, and observe all the examples of prayer that we find there recorded, we shall not find so many prayers for any other mercy, as for the deliverance, restoration, and prosperity of the church, and the advancement of God’s glory and kingdom of grace in the world.”[1] If the Bible places such an emphasis on these prayers, should not our prayers be the same? As believers, united in Christ by faith and adopted into his family, we pray to the same Father in heaven. Imagine what might happen if we all came to the throne of grace and asked the Lord to strengthen his church? What if we prayed for the leadership of our churches each day? What if we asked for opportunities to shine a corporate light in our dark communities? What if we prayed for greater unity, a unity that shows the world who Christ is and what he has done (John 17:23)? To that end, here is a prayer for the church...

A Prayer for the Church2022-05-07T22:29:28+00:00

How We Can Respond to Rachael Denhollander’s Invitation

I was not going to read Rachael Denhollander’s book What Is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics. As a wife, mom, and counselor, I did not feel like I had emotional bandwidth to engage with such a weighty, close to home topic. Like you, I’ve heard the statistics regarding sexual abuse. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “one in three women experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.” Like you, I realize there are no good options for a survivor coming forward. Like you, I realize even with all that Rachael has accomplished through coming forward, she still lives with the trauma and scars of the original abuses. Why would I read a book that reminds me of all of this? Against these odds, at the urging of a colleague, I picked up Rachael’s book and did not put it down until I had read every single word. I urge you to do the same. What is a Girl Worth? is the memoir of Rachael Denhollander. She describes herself as “wife, mother, follower of Christ, advocate, author, speaker. Part of the army that brought Larry Nassar to justice.” CNN referred to Denhollander as a whistleblower, but as you read her memoir you will see that she did more than blow a whistle. She sounded a fog horn and has not let up. Throughout this memoir, Rachael lets us into her world beginning as a young girl and through to the present day. She spares few details and the reader will come face to face with horrific evils (on multiple fronts). She does not do this to be indulgent or even to justify herself. Her memoir is ultimately an invitation. In the epilogue, she concludes with these words: So much work remains. So much evil to fight. So much healing to reach for. So many wounded to love. Consider this your invitation to join in that work. To do what is right, no matter the cost. To hold to the straight line in the midst of the battle. To define your success by faithfulness in the choices you make. The darkness is there, and we cannot ignore it. But we can let it point us to the light....

How We Can Respond to Rachael Denhollander’s Invitation2022-05-07T22:59:20+00:00

Bon Appetit! On Salt and the Christian Life

One of my bucket list items, for when we became empty nesters, was to learn Chinese cooking. The exotic smells and flavors have always had a special appeal, and I am easily mesmerized in a Chinese market by the assortment of spices and sauces, most with labels I cannot even read. It turned out that to enroll in a culinary school with Chinese cooking classes would require pre-requisite cooking classes. So began my journey back to college after over 40 years! I did eventually get that Chinese cooking class and then expanded to other Asian cuisines, Mexican and finally classical and bistro French cooking.  I have been taught by wonderful chefs who corrected my knife skills, taught me to taste as I go, showed me how to layer flavors to optimize dishes, and when to stop the cooking so the food will be at its peak flavors. The classes usually require a properly plated presentation to the chef, where a critique is provided to me regarding the balance of flavors. For the first two years, the most common comments from my chefs were “needs more salt.” Even when I decided I had better add extra salt during the cooking process, the same comment sometimes appeared on my evaluation. Salt is a funny ingredient. Of course, it provides saltiness, but it is also an enhancer. It brings out the best of the other spices in the food, heightening the contribution of each without overpowering with its own saltiness. Salt is an essential ingredient regardless of the type of cuisine. It can also be added in a variety of ways -absorbed through boiling water, creating a crust on meats, drying out vegetables, or simply added to a pot of sauce. Salt is referenced in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, when He instructs His disciples to be salt in the world. Matthew 5:13 says “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

Bon Appetit! On Salt and the Christian Life2022-05-07T23:29:26+00:00
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